It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Beware, musing follows.
Thriving, like surviving, is a very individual thing, though there are likely similarities with all folk. However, unlike surviving, I consider thriving to be a win-win—and a win-win in so many facets of our lives that we cannot pretend otherwise. That may sound a bit like a sappy Hollywood script, but I cannot help but smile if we could drive on the roads and feel a sense of thriving. What if we went for a walk and not find any trash? Wow! What if we could have even more energy and even less carbon footprint? Wow!
Thriving does not mean we don’t need space—and that space is a kind of dominion. Trees can thrive, but they take up a space in which other trees may not gain a foothold. That fact does not mean the strong survive, it means that space is required to thrive. Thriving is not the beating out or down of other beings, in part, it is the establishment of one’s space in which to thrive and the allowance of other spaces for other beings to thrive. I may not want a particular plant or “weed” growing on my property, but that doesn’t mean I have to go around eradicating all those rooted beings elsewhere. I may not want bugs or vermin in my house, but that doesn’t mean I have to hunt them down and kill them elsewhere. I may like to hang out with a certain mind/soulset, but that doesn’t mean I have to convert everyone to that particular way of looking at things. I may like to promote education, but that doesn’t mean folks who reject education are automatically disrespectful.
And thriving doesn’t mean we need more stuff. As I’ve written previously, stuff owns us, we don’t own stuff. Stuff is not the litmus test of a quality life—time to live and wonder and share is a life of thriving. On the other hand, we don’t have to live an austere life to thrive—it is quite wonderful to be warm on a cold night or fly half-way around the world in a day. Tis not stuff or austerity that constitutes thriving, but opportunities and a sense of thankfulness for those opportunities—whether we take advantage of them or not.
And we don’t have to be constantly producing to thrive. In fact such a state of ongoing production can actually be non-productive. Not-doing is at least as important as doing, though context and timing can matter. We can fail to thrive if we land on either side of the doing/not-doing paradox. However, most of the folks I know are simply too busy. It is as though the failure to produce something is tantamount to being a loser. I profoundly disagree: slow down, meditate, recapitulate—on a daily basis. Use meditation for mindfulness, use recapitulation to chart what comes next, including doing or not-doing.
It seems true to me that we do acknowledge the benefits of not-doing in some ways (eight-hour work days, forty-hour work weeks, vacation, personal time, etc.), but those ways seem peripheral to our main compass heading of producing, of a consumer economy—an economy of gain. There is another economy—of thriving, of having and feeling the space to move and stretch and breathe. Stuff and gain are so demanding. Space is so allowing.
Like the trees creating a dominion with their presence and their space, so it is with us. However, that we have established our being and our space does not mean we are thriving. A single tree may be quite a sight, but generally speaking thriving is not likely to occur without a community of life. Together we thrive—we need to thrive. And thriving is not simply up to individuals—that nonsense has to stop. I like capitalism and the opportunities for individuals and societies to grow and prosper, but without timeshares we suck. Taxation that is used to enrich some and penalize others is not a thriving condition. Taxation that builds communal opportunities (e.g., education, roads, hospitals, etc.) is about inclusion and access not dependent solely upon one’s economic ability to pay. We need to raise our minimum standards from allowing folks to survive to allowing folks to thrive. Otherwise we are sick and no matter how well off an individual is in a sick society, such an individual is not well-adjusted.